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Spoiler Alert: This has nothing to do with the seasons.
There are countless songs written about the best time to visit Paris or when someone most loves Paris. I’ve found my own best time to visit Paris.
Paris in the Early morning
The day began as another moving day for me. A day when I pack up my suitcases, make my way to the appropriate train station and leave Paris, onward to a new destination.
With daylight barely visible through the light-blocking heavy draperies in my hotel room, I suddenly awoke. I think I was simply anxious to absorb some last minute Parisienne ambiance, which extended onto narrow streets that radiated like wheel-spokes in front of my neighborhood hotel, Le Metropolitan.
The warm weather throughout Europe last week segued into record cold and rain in France. Paris in the rain. In April. For what more could I wish. Was this the best time to visit Paris?
Paris: 7:00 AM
I quickly threw on the day’s traveling clothes. I grabbed my well-worn leather gloves from Rome, my knitted cap from Zurich and slipped my Longchamps backpack from last year’s Paris trip, over my shoulders.
Heading to the door, I zipped up my charcoal-colored puffy jacket that I bought two years ago in Hamburg and wrapped my neck with a very old dark green and gold pashmina someone bought for me in Afghanistan. Sneakers courtesy of Foot Locker, U.S.A.
As I pushed open the heavy glass and brass door of Le Hotel Metropole, I breathed in a fresher and different air than I remembered. Paris in the Morning.
These otherwise busy streets, usually frantic with tiny Smart cars, white delivery vans and shiny black taxis, were quiet. Unusually quiet. So empty, in fact, I was able to stand without worry at the center of the Place de Mexico to take a photo of my hotel (the narrow building with green awnings).
Rather than sit in the empty hotel dining room, still slightly chilled from a damp, cool overnight, I walked to McDonald’s. Or “McDoo” as they say in Paris.
It was a short distance to get an Italian cappuccino from America’s Ronald. There was only one other person in sight. It was 8am for Pete’s sake…where was everyone?
When I reached Ave. Victor Hugo and McDonald’s, I saw the stirrings of a new day. Flower vendors were setting up folding tables underneath white canopied tents. An occasional woman in a long wool coat trailed by a canvas “bubby” cart, maneuvered her way around sidewalk obstacles.
McCafe was open. Three college age Parisienne girls helped me, albeit in French, find the proper McCafe entrance. At this early hour, the main McDonald’s was still closed. I was surprised to see three shiny red and silver espresso machines ready for a morning rush. “Un pain du chocolat et cappuccino, s’il vous plait,” I managed to say, with my horrible French accent. I hoped I said it correct – I must have because that’s exactly what I received.
Now it was slightly after 8am as I walked out the McDoor. Within the last five or so minutes, Paris woke up as if by a simultaneous silent alarm clock. That was when I realized this was the best time to be in Paris – as the City of Light awakens.
With my McCafe in one hand and my iPhone in the other, I managed to get a few street photos to capture a few early morning moments in Paris.
As I walked back to my hotel, I opened my eyes to notice and absorb the details. Small shops were setting up, their insides exposed behind once-folded corrugated steel doors. Fish, meats and fresh produce.
The bread baker was busy rolling out dough on machines. He smiled when I took his photo. I was elated. I almost felt like I was French, poking my nose and peering into various markets, deciding what I would cook for the day. Sadly, that would have to wait for another time. I would leave Paris in three hours.
Into the darkened, velvet-chaired hotel lobby and up the spiral stairs to my room. My cappuccino safely placed on the little table, I tossed my pain du chocolate and another plain croissant onto the bed.
I opened the draperies to see French doors across the street opened wide despite the chilly, damp morning. Their sheer curtains seemed to wave good morning to passers-by.
In the solitude of my hotel room, a fresh breeze blowing in, I carefully picnicked on the bed…yesterday’s copy of Le Figaro newspaper as my blanket.
Suitcases packed, remnants of my petit déjeuner in the waste basket, I looked one more time out of my window. It was only three days in Paris. But I found the sweet, and bittersweet, perfect time to visit Paris. As the city comes to life. In the early morning.
When is your best time to be in Paris?